As Geographic Home-Field Advantage Wanes, Opportunities Have Opened For Advisors To Reach Potential Clients In New Geographies
For years, advisors grew their practices organically, mostly in their own backyards. Being deeply rooted in their communities not only allowed advisors to give back, it also brought them into direct contact with ideal prospects. After all, the more people know about you, the more they tend to like you. And the more they like you, the more they believe you are someone they can trust.
This is especially true if prospects get to know advisors through coaching or participating in youth sports; volunteering in a service project or organization; or being active in school, church or town life. That familiarity, built in a specific community over time, once gave local advisors a strong home-field advantage.
That’s changing. And though some might blame the dark clouds of the COVID-19 pandemic for hastening the shift, they are missing the silver lining. Pretty much en masse, we all stopped meeting in person and jumped to Zoom meetings and virtual interfaces. The ease of the technology, combined with the comfort level of prospects, has opened the door to far-reaching opportunities for advisors.
Although meeting face-to-face is still important – and there are many benefits from sitting down with someone – it’s no longer requisite. To succeed in a virtual environment, advisors need to shift to a different mindset that, though unfamiliar at first, offers many compelling advantages.
Tip The Scale
Many advisors have grown their practices by offering seminars, which, though often effective, take time to organize, can be costly and are difficult to scale. By pivoting to virtual webinars, advisors have almost no expenses and can invite large groups. Whether 10, 50 or 100 people show up, the advisor will spend the same time delivering the presentation. And, after the webinar, the advisor has rich content ready to post on websites and social media, increasing scale.
It’s All Within Reach
Advisors with expertise in a particular area, or those with a defined niche, have opportunities to showcase their strengths in front of a much larger prospect pool. If you understand the nuances of pharmaceutical or biotech executives and their stock options, restricted stock units and company pension plans, you can work with them anywhere in the country.
You aren’t limited by geography, and those people will be willing to choose you for your competencies because you can do the best job for them. How often you meet, whether in person or via videoconference, won’t be the deciding factor. If you can convey your advanced knowledge and skills, people will seek you out – and it can be a game changer.
In the Northeast, where I live, it gets dark at 4:00 p.m. in the winter, and snow and ice are common occurrences. Many advisors prepare for client meetings in advance, printing portfolio summaries and updates to have them ready. When a storm arrives, clients start calling to cancel and reschedule their appointments, resulting in wasted time, paper and energy for the advisor’s office.
That changes with virtual meetings. Advisors can simply switch to a videoconference format and share their documents and screens with the client, covering what they need to. This convenience might be particularly appealing to older clients, parents with young children, people who are feeling unwell or folks who dislike traveling to meet their advisor in person.
Expanded M&A Opportunities
Once you look beyond geography and convenience, you’ll find that many other opportunities arise, including mergers and acquisitions. We know of advisors based in Maine who are purchasing a practice in Florida because they want to spend more time in sunny climates and many of their clients head south for the winter.
An advisor in Rhode Island who loves the ocean in the summer but is an avid skier in winter just bought a practice near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He can spend time doing what he loves while enjoying his new clients, increased AUM and location. These stories aren’t unique – we know of many firms adding advisors who live in other locations, merging with practices in different states and becoming successor advisors to well-established practices in other areas.
Build Your Virtual Mindset
Everything that’s important to people living in a community still matters in a virtual environment. Prospects want to know who you are, what’s important to you and why you do what you do. Looking at your current marketing and branding, would a virtual prospect get a good feel for your firm and its values? Do you have great bios for your team, case studies or examples of your expertise, and tangible evidence of the people you help and the problems you solve?
If you’re unsure how to compete in a virtual environment, there’s probably some work to be done. Although moving to a virtual mindset does require you to think a bit differently, you’re already experienced with activities such as incorporating video on your website and posting to social media. Video is a particularly effective way for prospects to learn about your firm because it can convey intangibles (e.g., your smiles, voices and team camaraderie) along with tangible facts about your practice.
Although it’s true that geographical distance matters less to clients and prospects today, we hope that this fact is freeing – not limiting. No longer constrained by a zip code, county or state line, financial advisors have a unique opportunity to better help the large numbers of people who need their services. We hope they find you!
Kristine McManus is Chief Advisor Growth Officer at Commonwealth Financial Network.